The ultimate on-line treasure hunt

Lindajane and Trevor Thompson are never short of something to go looking for.  In some ways, their lives are one long treasure hunt.  The reason for this is an on-line hobby sweeping the world called Geocaching.

The Thompsons are retirees who live in Belvidere Estate, just outside Knysna.  “We love the outdoors and travel a lot.  Geocaching has become one of our favourite ways of spending time.  It satisfies our need for seeking out new places and experiences,” explains Trevor.

To begin, potential geocachers need to create an account by signing up on-line and creating their own unique username and password.  Then they can access the millions of “geocaches,” also called “caches,” hidden around the world.  Clicking on a particular site on the map will reveal its GPS co-ordinates and treasure-hunt clue.

Participants use a GPS receiver or similar mobile device to track down the site.  A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook. The geocacher enters the date it was found and signs the logbook with their code name. After signing, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it.

The number of caches is growing daily as members place and log their own hidden treasures.  The website claims that there are currently “2,752 geocaches near Johannesburg”.  No doubt this number is changing, probably daily.

“Wherever we go across South Africa on our travels, we go looking for caches,” said Lindajane.  “There are several reasons why we enjoy it so much.  The main one is that the caches are almost always interesting.  They are found in unusual places, often of historical, artistic or scenic interest.  We learn a lot about that particular place from studying the clues and the location.  Then there is the aspect of the actual hunt: usually, the clues are not obvious and you have to figure out exactly what is hidden at that particular location.  And, of course, there is always a certain amount of walking and even climbing involved.”

While on a visit to Chartered Wealth’s head office in Dunkeld, Johannesburg, the Thompsons head outdoors with Kim Potgieter and two other people to locate a cache hidden behind a rock no more than fifty metres from the front door.  Although the location is exact, the clue is cryptic: “Two lions were kept here in the 1940s.”  It takes a while before the penny finally drops: this was some sort of zoo way back then.  Behind a metal plate they find the cache, a tiny cylinder containing a small piece of paper.  Trevor signs the paper, replaces it carefully and logs the find onto the website.  Job done.

“Caches are everywhere.  There are literally millions of them all over the world.  If you log onto the website and become a member, you can open up a map of the world showing every single cache.  There are thousands in South Africa,” explains Lindajane.

Trevor adds, “We have found caches in our backyard in Knysna and Mossel Bay and further afield in places like Nieu-Bethesda, Graaff-Reinet and Calitzdorp.”

And now, of course, in Dunkeld, Johannesburg.

To learn more, visit www.geocaching.com

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